MP-1978.107.47 | Monks giving shoes and clothes to elderly men, Montreal, QC, about 1930
Monks giving shoes and clothes to elderly men, Montreal, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Napoleon Antiques
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
Care for the elderly was haphazard. Farm families might look after their own; in urban areas this was often difficult. Many seniors lived in dire poverty, dependent on charity or municipal relief.
Private pensions were available only to a minority of Canadians. Public old-age pensions were in their infancy. In winter, homeless seniors sometimes found refuge in jail. Others were cared for by charitable institutions. In Quebec, religious orders played a key role.
In 1927, the federal government undertook to pay half the costs incurred by provincial governments that paid non-contributory pensions of $20 monthly to British subjects at age 70, provided they had resided in Canada for 20 years and had an income of less than $365 annually. This was the maximum income allowed to someone applying for the pension. By 1930, only the four western provinces and Ontario had passed the necessary legislation.
In theory, people were supposed to save for their old age. In practice, the low wages paid in many industries made saving impossible.
Prince Edward Island introduced old-age pensions in 1933, Nova Scotia in 1934, and New Brunswick and Quebec in 1936.
In 1951, a constitutional amendment turned non-contributory old-age pensions into a federal responsibility. The Canada and Quebec Pensions Plans date from 1966.
The politicians who in 1925 initiated federal involvement in old-age pensions were the Labour Members of Parliament James S. Woodsworth (1874-1942) and Abraham A. Heaps (1885-1954).